BackLASH Following Speculations Over ‘Rugby Lad Culture’

As current university news is saturated with talk of the ‘rugby lad culture’ it is not surprising that there appears to have been much back-and-forth on the topic. Each year the same debate springs up which suggests that whilst it is not getting any worse, it is also not getting any better. So why does this ruby-playing cohort continue to cause controversy? With some people suggesting that other male-dominated sports societies exhibiting similar behaviours have gone under the radar and recent movements such as the ‘MeToo’ generating huge support and publicity, should we not be extending the spotlight to encompass the misogynistic roots within wider lad cultures? We can consider this whilst taking a quick look at some of the online backlash that has unfolded…

Social media – and particularly anonymous groups – have allowed such confrontation to come to the fore-front once again. Cardiff Confessions has highlighted concerns about the rugby team promoting ‘a hideous brutish form of masculinity on nights out that promotes the mistreatment of everyone else (particularly women) and being intolerable when drunk’. Since such concerns have been raised, articles and discussions surrounding such accused lad culture have developed.

Whilst it is still important to find out whether such going-ons occur within the rugby team and to investigate whether both the team and Student Union are doing enough to discourage offensive behaviour if this has in fact happened, comments such as these clearly hint to a much greater, more complex culture which exists worldwide. Similar behaviours are reported to occur on a night out in the town, proving that if such behaviours are prevalent, they do not lie within the rugby club or SU alone.

Coincidentally, there have been similar recent online concerns regarding lad culture within American fraternities. In US universities, one in five women are sexually assaulted on campus and this is 300% more likely to occur within fraternities. Likewise, in Australian Universities, a nation-wide study showed that one in five students were sexually harassed in a university setting with women being three times more likely to be the victim and that 30% of such occurrences happening at social events or at university housing! Sports teams, however, are not a prominent feature of the unis which indicates that, whilst such harassment and mistreatment of others is an issue perhaps more exaggerated and obvious within hyper-masculine sports cultures, it goes on less noticeably elsewhere – and evidently much more likely within social scenes across universities and in particular, at those where alcohol joins in on the occasion.

But how essential is it to have alcohol-infused social opportunities for societies? For any team, the ability to bond over a drink is seen as an integral part of cementing cohesion and for many this is what attracts them to a society to begin with. In fact, some studies even show that bonds form quicker with certain alcohol-related activities suggesting that such socials really do provide benefits for any society that relies on teamwork efforts.

Regardless of the speculations, one thing is for certain – with the constant coverage over the highs and lows of rugby lad culture in the SU, it seems that other sports and societies are not being given the recognition they deserve with someone writing that ‘the Students Union seems to have forgotten that non-sports societies exist’ on the Cardiff Confessions page. This was followed by claims that there has been a great focus on the rugby team’s recent winnings but nothing to congratulate ‘Cardiff Model United Nations for winning the best delegation award at the latest Cambridge conference and beating delegations from Harvard, Yale and Stanford’. And no doubt there are many other recent achievements that have gone under the radar. Whilst such lad cultures should of course be questioned, it seems that perhaps many other societies and sports groups feel they are paling in comparison.

So it appears that whilst claims of misogynistic behaviours should absolutely be investigated and dealt with by both the relevant sports teams and Student Union, this is a trend that will require change amongst all levels of society and that meanwhile, greater efforts should be made to further promote awareness of both the peaks and troughs of other societies throughout the university!